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Team Korea Wins Youth Baseball Crown

Posted September. 29, 2006 07:05,   


Sun Dong-yol (Manager of Samsung Lions) of 1981, Lee Seung-yeop (Yomiuri) of 1994, Choo Shin-soo (Cleveland) of 2000: now it’s time for Kim Gwang-hyeon (Ansan Technical High School).

With a new star player born, Korean junior baseball has once again stepped upon the top of the tripod in the world championship. In the final match of the 22nd World Junior Baseball Championship held at José Antonio Huelga Stadium, Sancti Spiritus Province, Cuba, Korea beat the USA with a 4-3 victory, thanks to the brilliant pitching of the team’s ace Kim Gwang-hyeon and the clinching hit of Lim Ik-jun (Gwangju Dongsung High).

It was Korea that first took the lead in the third inning with two runs. However, the Americans caught up with an equalizer in the following fourth inning, and made another run in the sixth to take away the lead, overcastting shadow on the Korean dugout.

Then in the eighth inning with bases loaded, Korea tied the game again, as Lim Ik-jun earned a base on balls and the tense game entered into the ninth inning with the score 3-3. Kim Nam-hyeong (Incheon High) walked to the first base with a hit by pitch and the fourth hitter Lee Du-hwan (Jangchung High) also walked with an intentional base on balls to load the first and second base with two outs.

With two balls and a strike, Lim Ik-jun, who joined the game in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter, hit the ball of Team America’s fifth pitcher Tim Alderson, which made a big bounce in front of the shortstop to drop in the outfield and concluded the game that lasted for three hours and 47 minutes.

Korea won the championship for the first time in six years after the tournament in Edmonton, Canada, in which Choo Shin-soo was chosen as the MVP.

In the first tournament held in 1981 at Pheonix, USA, Korea won the first place owing to the outstanding pitching of Sun Dong-yol who was in his first year at Korea University by then. In 1994, at Brandon, Canada, they once again embraced the champion’s trophy and Lee Seung-yeop proved himself as the best slugger in the tournament with three homers. It is also a point of special interest that Korea has always met America in the final match of all four tournaments they won.

Indisputably, the most shining player in Korea’s triumphant match would be the left-handed pitcher Kim Gwang-hyeon. Designated by SK and in the first round of the rookies draft for the next year, Kim signed up for a contract for 500 million won. He pitched in relief for the starter Lee Jae-gon (Kyungnam High) in the first inning after one out with the first and second base loaded, but earned two runs in the third inning and switched his position to the outfield.

In the ninth inning with no out and a runner on the first base, he appeared on the mound again and closed the game to win the honor of the winning pitcher. His record for the game was three hits, four base on balls, five strikeouts and two earned runs in four innings. Including the shutout win against Taiwan in the quarterfinals, he won four wins in this tournament and such a performance brought him the MVP title.

The head coach Heo Se-hwan (Gwangju Jeil High) commented, “The game was so tense that my voice got hoarse. Our great fortitude, the mentality that we would keep fighting even until we faint to fall upon the ground, finally brought us the triumph.”